The English publication of Haruki Murakami’s novel, 1Q84, is beyond the horizon and the literary world is abuzz with excitement. As the name suggests, it takes place during 1984, a curious contemporary setting given that this was the same decade where Murakami’s career took flight. As many economic historians know, it’s also a period where Japan’s economic wealth was at its height before their economic bubble burst and a recession stretched past the turn of the millennium. Writers and historians stress the monetary decadence of the 1980s, but there was more than just productional consumption at play. A closer look into the country’s “consumption of knowledge” reveals a lesser known account of Japan’s “intellectual” trends of the time and where Murakami fit into the picture.
Murakami wrote a collection with Shigesato Itoi titled Yume de Aimashou (Let’s Meet in a Dream) in 1981. Gamers are quick to recognize Itoi as the director of the Earthbound (Mother 2) video game. However, Itoi was renowned for neither work during his prime. It’s his position as a copywriter that made Itoi a national celebrity–a Japanese Don Draper if you will–in the 1980s. Itoi’s unlikely ascent to superstardom offers a greater insight towards Japanese commercial life during this decade and further aids us in understanding Murakami’s popularity–or what some have deemed the “Murakami Phenomenon.”